With ongoing unrest around the country and with the quadrennial political conventions approaching this summer, we will examine the type and breadth of police tactics used to suppress dissent and how activists can use the legal system as a tool to resist that repression.
Similar to the Movement for Black Lives today, the Student Liberation Action Movement (SLAM) at CUNY put the criminal justice system on the political agenda across the country as protests erupted in Philadelphia in 2000.
Today's policing model was largely developed on the streets of Philadelphia in 2000 at the height of the Global Justice movement. It worked so well for the state's efforts to suppress dissent that police departments across the country have continued to draw from the same playbook of tactics. The Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements have experienced similar repression from the same playbook, and there appears to be no end in sight for a policing model that social scientists have coined "strategic incapacitation."
Given the vast resources of the state and its inclination to incapacitate and stifle dissent, how can we effectively confront that repression? How can activists and political movements respond when mass arrests occur? How can we better utilize our collective strength not just in the streets but also when we're inevitably caught up in the legal system?
Kris Hermes, a longtime activist and author of Crashing the Party: Legacies and Lessons from the RNC 2000 (PM Press) , a case study on contemporary protest policing and ways in which activists used the legal system to resist. Kris has provided legal support at numerous mass demonstrations since 2000 including OWS and BLM protests.
King Downing, an attorney currently on staff with the National Lawyers Guild as Mass Defense Coordinator. King was part of the Ferguson Legal Defense Committee, which supported the communities and protesters in the St. Louis area after the killing of Michael Brown.
Lesley Wood, an Associate Professor of Sociology at York University and the author of Crisis and Control: The Militarization of Protest Policing. Lesley is interested in how ideas travel, how power operates, how institutions change, how conversations influence practices, how people resist and how conflict starts, transforms and ends.
Kazembe Balagun (invited), a writer, educator, and theorist living in New York City. Kazembe is a former member of the Student Liberation Action Movement at CUNY's Hunter College. His writings cover the cross-sections of Marxism, anarchism, Black liberation, queer theory, movement history, and popular culture.